SleepersJanuary 11, 2007

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Sleeper Watch

By Jamaal Gilbert

It’s likely that you’ve seen many Supersonics big men featured in sleeper-type columns this season, but not a single one of them was worth a look, until now. Seattle center Nick Collison is our Sleeper of the Week not only because of his fantasy explosion just a few short days ago, but because he has long been the best option down low alongside PF Chris Wilcox this year.

For the better part of the 2006-07 season Seattle Head Coach Bob Hill has ineffectively used (what we can only assume to be called) the “dart board” method to choose his centers, having run out six different big men to man the position so far (Sene, Petro, Swift, Wilcox, Gelabale, and Fortson). He continued that experiment on Tuesday, January 9 versus Phoenix, pulling regular starters Luke Ridnour and Johan Petro and replacing them with Collison and Earl Watson. Surprisingly, Hill netted decent results and may have found a new starting center despite chalking up another loss. Collison finished with a career high 29 points and 21 rebounds while Watson scored 12 points and dished nine assists. One night later, Collison poured in 21 points and nine rebounds with three steals (that’s 25 points and 15 boards with three assists and two steals over the last two games for those of you keeping score), a line that would seemingly entrench him as the starting center for the foreseeable future.

There is no guarantee that Collison’s stay as a starter will be an extended one with coach Hill at the helm. However, there are a few factors that could keep him around, including the fact that no other Seattle big man aside from Wilcox has shown the ability to corral caroms like Collison. Of the six centers that have played this year, Collison ranks second among them in rebounds per game, despite being only recently promoted.

Secondly, his main competition, Robert Swift, is out for the season with a knee injury, a near-identical situation that has benefitted Mikki Moore in New Jersey. Aside from Swift, Johan Petro has emerged as the only threat to Collison’s playing time as he has logged 19.4 minutes off the bench over the last five games. In the last two games, Collison has played 38 and 44 minutes respectively, signaling that this promotion might indeed be the end of the time share at center in Seattle.

It would be folly not to mention the fact that he has shown flashes of potential in the past, as he notched eight double-digit rebounding games a year ago and already has six in 2006-07. He’s also getting more shot opportunities as well (7.6 a game this year, up from 5.96 last year), a sign that he is maturing as a big man and has become much more reliable.

Collison’s current ownership in fantasy leagues is down for the moment, at 38 percent in CBS leagues, and a trifling 13.5 percent in ESPN leagues. Add to that the fact that his percentages are solid enough and that his averages are up across the board, and there are few remaining reasons to shy away from the former Kansas Jayhawk stand out. Scoop him up and expect around 12 points and eight boards with a steal the rest of the way, because it never hurts to have another solid center around with the plethora of injuries this year.

Jamaal Gilbert is an aspiring sportswriter who contributes regularly and is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Jamaal in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of jamastaballa.
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Sebastian Telfair & Nick Collison by Mike Antoine (posted on 04/04/2005 in Sleepers)
The Seattle Sleeper: Jeff Green by Jonathan Huang (posted on 01/04/2008 in Sleepers)
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